|Telluride, Colorado, kitchen.|
One of the biggest advantages to staying in vacation rentals is having a kitchen. Some offer gourmet kitchens with the latest high-end appliances and utensils. But at the very least, you'll have a stove, refrigerator, microwave and a grill, so you'll be able to cook your own meals instead of eating out all the time. Here are three tips for getting the most out of cooking in your kitchen.
Make a Plan
First, don't assume you're going to eat a lot different on vacation than you do at home. While local cuisine and the availability of certain foods will certainly play a part, you'll more than likely be drawn to the kinds of foods you normally enjoy. If your lunches generally consist of sandwiches and chips, then assume you'll eat in a similar fashion at your vacation rental. Having this mindset will allow you to branch out to new and interesting foods in a way that you'll enjoy.
Before you leave on your trip, go online and scope out the grocery stores and farmers' markets in the area you're visiting. Become familiar with the kinds of fruits and vegetables available. Then create a grocery list that you'll use when you first arrive. Ask the property manager or owner if any shopping services are available. You might be able to have some of your groceries waiting for you when you arrive. Also, resist the temptation to buy too much when shopping. While you want enough food around to keep you from eating out every meal, you don't want spend a lot of money on groceries and then leave them behind. Be sure to ask what kind of appliances are available as well, and if there are any restrictions on grilling.
Bring Some Staples
Purchase some easy-to-pack staples before departing. Everyday spices will almost certainly be cheaper at home (though stay open to local spices if they're unique and fresh). If you know a recipe calls for flour, bring some in a baggie. The same goes for baking soda, sugar, chocolate and other staple ingredients.
Along with staple foods, bring along small specialty cooking utensils you know you'll need. A garlic press, an extra spatula, a pair of high-quality kitchen scissors are all excellent bring-along items. Resist the temptation to pack your food processor, however. You'd be better off packing a favorite kitchen knife or two and asking for help in the kitchen from your travel buddies.
Once you've researched the food availability in the area you're traveling to, you'll have a great idea about what kind of meals you should plan. First, don't schedule yourself for a full day in the kitchen. Any recipes you make should be quick and easy. If you're traveling with a large or diverse group of people, now's not the time to get creative either. Try to come up with meals that will please everyone. Do include local produce, meats, fish and breads. There's nothing like going to Italy and enjoying some locally made prosciutto and cheeses. Ask if anyone in your group has special dietary needs or is trying to lose weight.
While you might be the main cook in the group (and you probably like it that way), try to share the work with others. Perhaps ask someone else to prepare a lunch, and another to take on a dinner. You'll feel less like the burden's all on you. And by all means, ask everyone to help in the clean up.
Lastly, stay flexible. While you want to have a plan going in, if a meal out a night or two makes your vacation more enjoyable, then by all means eat out. Remember, whether it's a lake vacation rental, a ski vacation rental, or a beautiful place in a charming neighborhood, you're on vacation and are supposed to have fun.